High country wine: Don Rodolfo Tannat
When it comes to cultivating grapes at high altitudes, few appellations come closer to the top than Argentina’s Cafayate Valley. Perched just under 6,000 feet, this is “up there”, even by our Western U.S. standards. With guaranteed to be stressful growing conditions, the grapes produced there have a lot of individual character.
Due to early settlements by European immigrants, the Cafavate Valley has been under cultivation for 100’s of years and with some grape varietals that are no longer being produced in significant volume elsewhere. This is because agricultural traditions sometimes become established in the New World (non-Europe), then the Old World (Europe) abandons them, leaving the New World to carry the torch.
An example of one of the Cafayate valley’s own “lost varietals” is Tannat. South America now has the distinction of being the world’s number 1 source of Tannat. But not much of it ever ends up in general distribution, so there are many of us who have never even tasted Tannat wine.
Now, one of Argentina’s predominant Cafayate Valley producers, Don Rodolfo, has made a very affordable Tannat available here in the U.S. And with Cafayate’s dry climate, cool nights, and searing sun, the wines from this region are intense; this gives Don Rodolfo a reputation for creations that possess “very expansive” enjoyment.
So naturally, their 2008 Tannat is not wimpy. Its bouquet reminds of wild brambly fruit with dusty overtones making it very interesting. As name implies, this dark ruby wine is loaded with tannins, but in the mouth, the fruit is more subtle, peppery, but without the smokiness we’re used to with other Argentine varietals like Malbec. It is easy to see why Tannat is often used as a mixing wine to add bouquet variations and structure to blends.
Pair this Tannat with grilled beef or chicken. For some reason it also goes well with blackened barbeque chicken like a big dry Zinfandel would. It is definitely a wine for smoky grilled meats. Its structure stands up to, but does not overpower, grilled cuisine.
You can get it at AJs (on Ray Rd. in Chandler for sure) for $12. At that price, it is a good candidate for picking up a few bottles and experimenting with a variety of foods. As a bonus, the tannins will also allow it to sit in the rack for a few years; not the norm for a wine in this price range. Serve slightly chilled at 60-65 degrees.
Article by Tom Peiffer, Phoenix Wine Shopping Examiner at Examiner.com
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